Rose: My unsung Pompey hero

When you think of a title-winning side, there are a few individuals remembered for their performances over the course of that season.

Tuesday, 6th June 2017, 10:00 am
Updated Thursday, 8th June 2017, 3:30 pm
David Forde is hoisted loft the heads of Pompey fans who made their way on to the pitch at Fratton Park after the League Two title was won Picture: Joe Pepler
David Forde is hoisted loft the heads of Pompey fans who made their way on to the pitch at Fratton Park after the League Two title was won Picture: Joe Pepler

You think of the 25-goal striker with his name lit up in lights all season. You recall the mercurial winger whose tricks had thousands of fans off their seats.

The central midfielder who has been a rock all season, perhaps a full-back that has been a constant threat and is never beaten in a one-versus-one. Or the towering centre-back who got his head to everything and put his body on the line when it mattered.

But there is one position on the pitch that requires a certain type of personality, an often lonely role at times when playing for Pompey.

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He may have one or two saves to make all game but, more often than not, it is these vital stops that have secured clean sheets and valuable points along the road to the title.

David Forde was the man between the sticks in a Blues side which captured the League Two title on the final day.

At the tender age of 37 he was an ever-present and has indicated there remain a good few years in him left.

He conceded the fewest goals in the league and recorded the most clean sheets. The stats speak for themselves.

In contrast. Pompey fielded six different goalkeepers the previous season and perhaps that inconsistency was one of the reasons why they just missed out on promotion.

With a wealth of experience, the Irish international was charged with the task of being the model of consistency, a colossal presence in the box and, just as important, a leader in the dressing room.

This time last year Forde had made just 10 appearances in all competitions for Millwall. The last coming in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy semi-final in January 2016.

With a year left on his contract and game time looking limited, he chose Pompey.

‘I was fit and ready for another season with Millwall when I had a phone call from Portsmouth with just over a week before the start of the season,’ said Forde.

‘I also had a few offers from previous clubs, but they didn’t seem to fit.

‘After hearing Portsmouth were interested, I relished the challenge of awakening a sleeping giant and getting such a great club back to where it belongs.’

Surprisingly, Forde had only tasted promotion once previously in his career, courtesy of the play-offs with Millwall in 2010.

He also has 24 appearances for the Republic of Ireland to his name.

So where does his Blues achievement rank?

Forde added: ‘Winning the League Two title is right up there with what I’ve achieved in football.

‘I’ve had some great times over the course of my career, playing for my country, promotion with Millwall, winning various FAI Cups back home in Ireland.

‘But I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of playing for Portsmouth Football Club. As a footballer, as you get older the success you have gets that little bit more sweet.

‘Over a career of 20-plus years there certainly aren’t as many highs as there are lows, so you really have to savour these achievements.’

Serving as back-up goalkeeper for someone who has played so many games at a high level was understandably frustrating.

Every player has been there at some stage in their career. You question yourself, while media and fans doubt you have what it takes.

But if there were any claims directed towards Forde, then he has certainly palmed them off with consummate ease.

An impressive campaign resulted in him named in the PFA League Two team of the year, demonstrating a stark contrast.

Forde said: ‘I haven’t really changed anything, I always stay professional.

‘Even when I’m not playing I prepare as if I am because you never know when you might be called upon.

‘Physically, I was in top shape the previous year at Millwall, just as good as at Pompey. I certainly thrived coming in and being number one, my confidence came back, so mentally I was in a good space.

‘Therefore, it gave me the opportunity to really enjoy every moment last season. That’s probably the biggest difference.’

As a goalkeeper you would think his favourite moment from a title-winning campaign would be an outrageous save to keep a clean sheet and win the game in the dying minutes.

But the modest man he is, it’s the collective moments which stand out.

‘My favourite moment was when we clinched promotion away at Notts County,’ Forde revealed.

‘It had been an undulating season with so many highs and lows, but to realise you’ve achieved what you set out to do with a great football club was really fulfilling.

‘To look over at the away crowd of 4,000 fans was incredible, I felt their joy and their emotion.

‘Also being carried off the pitch after we won the title was a truly special occasion. I received the photo afterwards and it will live with me forever. To see my green shirt against a sea of blue was such a special moment.’

When he plucks a dangerous cross out of the air we all say thank you. The overwhelming relief is felt around the ground and, as our anxiety rests, there is one man who has it all under control.

A calm head, physically intimidating and a safe pair of hands, ingredients the Fratton Park cauldron has been missing since perhaps the Premier League days.

We remember the spectacular goals which are scored once in every 20 attempts, we remember the silky skills that come off every now and then.

But let us not forget the one man who cannot make a mistake, the last line of defence.